This review is based off the experience I had shooting high school softball and baseball. Your experience will vary with lighting conditions and the type of event you're going to shoot.
Handling & Feel
This is the most subjective topic we can discuss, and very right so. Every camera not only has an emotional connection with their owner, but also how well it feels and handles in the hand. Both these cameras are very different in build and shape. Now when I went to shoot, I had the smallrig cage to add more rigidity to the body which helped on the a6300. However, it does not compare to the ergonomics and feel of the Canon 7D Mark II. The 7D just has all the dials and buttons nicely placed, you know where everything is, and you feel right at home. On the other hand, although the Sony a6300 can be customized, it feels like it takes just an extra step each time to accomplish a task. It may not seem like much, but it’s subtle enough that you could miss the shot.
Raw Buffer Performance
Everyone shoots differently, you might spray and pray, or you might time the action. Needless to say, if you’re a pro shooter, you definitely need to be able to take a number of frames and expect the camera to never lag. The 7D Mark II is a beast. Coupled with the CF card and large buffer, I never found the 7D Mark II to ever slowdown in any sporting environment I threw at it. I could fire off raw after raw and I just needed to loosen up the shutter and I’d be good in a second. Unfortunately, that’s the not the case with the Sony a6300. Whether you’re shooting in JPEG or in RAW, don’t expect that buffer to give you large burst of shots. While shooting baseball, I made sure I didn’t fire off too many at any given time, and it did suffice. However, for those that need that burst, you’ll definitely want to shoot in JPEG with the Sony a6300. This can be a deal breaker for many of you.
Both cameras offer high fps shooting. The Canon 7D Mark II tops at 10fps, while the Sony a6300 tops out at 11fps with black out. Although on paper, the 11fps on the Sony sounds great, in practice it’s not the most usable for sports. Again, if you fire off too many frames, the camera will lock and you’ll have to wait for the images to write to the card to do anything. It could almost feel like eternity. So with regards to fps, the 7D definitely has the advantage here.
Each camera excels with its autofocusing capability. However, from my experience, I have to give the edge to the Canon 7D Mark II to be just ever so quicker for this particular sport. The camera just felt more responsive at firing frames then the Sony a6300. It doesn’t mean that the a6300 had difficulty acquiring focus, but from my experience the 7D had the slight edge. In many ways, the a6300 makes up for this with its face tracking capability and 425 phase detect points. However, when something as simple as moving a single focus point requires extra steps, it just slows the whole system down.
HIGH ISO Performance
I typically don’t like doing comparisons like this, but for the sake of review, I went and did some test shots comparing the two at higher ISO’s. This isn’t a very scientific test, but you’ll notice that the a6300 edges out the 7D mark II, in my opinion by almost one to one and half stops of light. That’s a big deal. While comparing the max native ISO of 16000 on the Canon to Sony’s 51200 ISO, the Sony came out on top. Needless to say, if you’re looking for high ISO performance, the Sony a6300 takes the lead.
I can’t stress this enough, even if the a6300 was a better performing camera, if it didn’t have the native lens selection, it wouldn’t matter a whole lot. Fortunately, the Sigma MC-11 adapter is helping bridge that gap until more native telephoto lenses appear for the Sony e-mount. I went ahead and tested the 120-300 Sport on both the Canon and Sony. Obviously the Canon fired off faster and acquired focus on its subject quicker, the Sony held its own with the MC-11 adapter. I would still give the advantage to the Canon 7D.
While I shot in the bright afternoon, it was close to 90 degrees F. After about 20 minutes of shooting, I noticed that the Sony a6300 had a temp indicator appear. It was kind of alarming seeing this pop up, when I had just started getting into the groove of shooting. Since I was testing both cameras, I was swapping back and forth so it wasn’t an issue then. However, if you find yourself shooting in really warm environments, the possibility of this camera shutting down on you is very much real. Keep that in mind.
The electronic viewfinder on the Sony a6300 has been a real joy to have access to. I use it all the time now when reviewing images. In particular, shooting in the bright sun, it’s really difficult to evaluate the quality of the image on the back of LCD. However, with the EVF, I can pop my eye in there and check the quality without worrying about the sun getting in the way. This can be critical in many ways when you need to check if you got the shot.
I won’t bore you with the video side of things, just be aware that the Sony a6300 has video features leaps above the 7D Mark II. It has 4k, 120fps, and very clean 1080p. Plus, the ability to record and monitor through the viewfinder is a godsend. I don’t think I can personally go back to a DSLR without one for video. Yes, the a6300 is plagued with issues, but if you keep those weaknesses in mind, you can still produce some amazing content with the camera.
If you're making a living off capturing images for sports, then my recommendation is the 7D Mark II all the way or something like the Nikon D500 for those in that camp of things. The Sony a6300, although feature pack, still lacks some ergonomics and refinements that will make it compete. Yeah, the 7D Mark II might have some old tech in it, but the damn thing works, and it works well. If you need the shot and you got to put food on the table, it makes a whole lot of sense to stick with that system. On the flip-side, if you don’t make a living off of sports, and you want a small portable camera for shooting pictures of your kids, then the a6300 might be more bang for buck. The video features are definitely impressive and I would consider that over the 7D Mark II alone just because I use video so much more frequently. Imagine recording some fun highlight videos of your kids in high frame rate and slowing it down. The 7D Mark II just can’t do that for you.